Full text of "Atheism"
APR 2 8 1942
Bishop W A. Candler
Senior Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal
Department op Tracts
Publishing House of the M. E. Church, South
Lamar & Whitmore, Agents
The Hebrew psalmist says: "The fool
hath said in his heart there is no God."
(Ps. 14:1,; 52:2.)
The fools whom he observed were not
foolish enough to say aloud, "There is no
God"; they said it only in their hearts.
Their unspoken atheism was so discredit-
able that they would not utter it in the
hearing of other persons.
But the atheists of our day are more
arrogant and aggressive. They are so
shameless that they publish their atheism
from the housetops and organize an in-
corporated association to propagate it.
Their folly, however, springs from the
same source and is of the same sort as that
of those whom the psalmist characterized
The Hebrew seer and singer traced the
Godless creed of the fools of his day to
their lawless conduct, saying:" They are
corrupt; they have done abominable
works. There is none that doeth good."
(Ps. 14: 1.) With this view, Sir
Francis Bacon agrees when he says:
"Atheism is rather in the life than in the
hearts of men."
No other explanation of its origin and
inspiration can be found. It is an eccen-
tricity ' of mind which points to a devia-
tion from morality; for belief in theexist-
ance of God seems to be instinctive with
all unperverted men and as universal as
mankind. To this fact Plutarch bears
witness in these words: "If you go round
the world you may find cities without
walls, or literature, or kings, or houses,
or wealth, or money; without gymnasia,
or theaters. But no one ever saw a city
without temples or gods, one which does
not have recourse to prayers, or oaths, or
oracles; which does not offer sacrifice to
obtain blessings, or which does not cele-
brate rites to avert evils."
To the same effect speaks Cicero:
"There is no people so wild and so savage
as not to have believed in a God, even if
they have been unacquainted with his
nature. Now, a thing concerning
which the nature of all men agrees must
of necessity be true."
This universal belief in the existence of
God would be a strange thing, indeed, if
there were not for it a corresponding
reality. It would be a miscarriage of
nature more marvelous and monstrous
than eyes without light, ears without
sound, and appetite without food and
drink. It is certain that intuition, or the
observation of the facts of the universe,
or both, combine to produce in the minds
of all men an almost overwhelming con-
viction that there is a God ; and this world-
wide conviction is no mean proof of the
divine existence for which it calls and
which answers its cry.
This conviction is as persistent through
the ages as it is pervasive among all races.
Neither clime nor time is able to prevail
over it. Often criticised, it is never con-
quered by criticism, but always triumphs
over all opposition which rises up to ex-
tinguish it. A notable example of its in-
vincible strength and deathless power is
furnished by the French Revolution. On
August 10, 1793, a great festival was held
to celebrate the final overthrow of religion
and the opening of the reign of Nature
and Reason in the place of the dethroned
deity. Nevertheless, within a year Robes-
pierre secured a decree recognizing a
Supreme Being and the immortality of
Belief in the existence of God being per-
sistent, it is doubtless true, otherwise it
would die; for nothing is more perishable
than that which is false.
The unconquerable and undying con-
viction that there is a God is as universal
as nature itself; for "Nature is but the
name for an effect whose cause is God."
This is so manifest to men of reason that
perhaps all such agree with Bacon, who
says quite sententiously that, "God never
wrought miracles to convince atheism, be-
cause his ordinary works convinceth."
The universe does proclaim the exist-
ence of God. His works are solid words
declaring that he is and ever has been and
ever will be.
Unless we accept the absurdities of
philosophical skepticism, which decries the
possibility of all knowledge of everything
whatsoever, we know that we and the
universe around us have real existence.
If we cannot know that much, all knowl-
edge is more unsubstantial and useless
than a dream; we cannot so much as
dream that we dream.
But, if we know that we are, and that
the universe is, we are forced by the im-
perative necessity of thought to seek an
explanation of the existence of ourselves
and all beings and things outside our-
selves. By the same necessity of reason
we are shut up to one of three explications :
First, all that is, whether material or im-
material, is uncaused and has existed
externally. Second, or all that exists is
the last effect of an infinite succession of
causes, stretching backward in an endless
and eternal chain. Third, or that all that
is has issued from a final and self-existent
cause back of which we cannot go.
In each and all of these three theories
inheres the conception of the Eternal. It
is sometimes assumed that religion alone
brings forward this conception, but such
is not the case. No difficulty of conceiving
the Eternal, the Absolute and the Uncon-
ditioned arises in theology which is not
involved in philosophy as well.
The matter to be considered is, which is
most reasonable, the theory of the eternity
of the universe, or the theory of the end-
less chain of causes and effects extending
into an eternal past; or the doctrine of a
final and self-existent Cause, from which
has been sprung all that is and without
which nothing has been, is now, or ever
will be. Which of these hypotheses solves
most satisfactorily the problem of exist-
ence, a problem which all things force us
We cannot believe in the eternity of
matter. Science as well as theology for-
bids the acceptance of that baseless notion ;
for the progress of science has established
completely and conclusively that every-
thing perceived by our senses has had a
beginning in time and has a derivative
and dependent nature. Scientists tell us
with confidence the age of the rocks and
inform us of when the deepest oceans and
the highest mountains began to be. If,
therefore, we seek to find what is eternal,
science declares that it is not in the earth
below nor in the heavens above, nor in
the waters under the earth. All things
demand that we look above and beyond
them for that which is eternal. The
universe is an effect ; it cannot be that it is
eternal. The human mind rejects peremp-
torily the superstitious dogma of the
eternity of all things.
And the conception of an endless chain
of effects and causes, extending into a by-
gone eternity, is equally repugnant to
reason. No man has ever seriously enter-
tained for long that preposterous con-
clusion. "The human mind universally
and instantaneously rejects it as incon-
ceivable, unthinkable, self-contradictory,
absurd. We may believe either in a self-
existent God or in a self-existent world,
and we must believe in one or the other;
we cannot believe in an infinite regress
of causes. The alternatives of a self-
existent cause and an infinite regress of
causes are not, as some would represent,
equally creditable alternatives. The one
is undeniable truth, the other is a manifest
absurdity. The one all men believe, the
other no man believes." (Flint's "The-
Since we cannot believe that the uni-
verse is eternal, or that it is the last effect
of an endless regress of causes and conse-
quences, we are compelled to believe in a
final and self-existent First Cause.
What, or who, is that First Cause?
It must be One Cause. The First
Cause must be a unit; for there cannot
be more than one Eternal. Hence, the
whole universe, by its very name as well
as by its nature, cries out against every
form of polytheism. In the essential
nature of the First Cause there must be
life and mind; for life and mind appear
in the universe, and an effect can never
contain an element superior to its pro-
ducing cause. The self-existent First
Cause, therefore, must be living and
intelligent; for the nonliving cannot
originate the living and the nonintelli-
gent cannot produce the intelligent.
The First Cause must be a free cause.
Otherwise blind fate is the foundation of
all things, and capricious chance brings
order out of chaos. Freedom must inhere
in the First Cause, or it is not the final
cause at all. "It is absurd to look for it
among effects. But we never get out of
the sphere of effects until we enter that of
free agency; until we emerge from the
natural into the spirit; until we leave
matter and reach mind. The First Cause,
must indeed, be in — all through— the uni-
verse; but it must also be out of the uni-
verse, anterior to, and above the universe.
The idea of cause is a delusion, the search
for causes is inexplicable folly, if there is
no First Cause and that First Cause be not
a Free Cause, a Will, a Spirit, a Person."
Such is the irrefragible conclusion reached
by that profound thinker, Dr. Robert
Flint, in his monumental work on "The-
ism"; and to the same conclusion all the
Jaws and logical processes of thought in-
evitably lead us. In poetic form, as well
as philosophic power, Addison, the great
master of elegant style and profound
thought sings this supreme truth:
The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.
Th' unwearied sun, from day to day,
Doth his Creator's power display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an almighty hand.
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wondrous tale;
And nightly, to the listening earth,
Repeats the story of her birth:
While all the stars that round her burn .
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings, as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.
What though, in solemn silence, all
Move round the dark, terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice, nor sound.
Amid the radiant orbs be found?
In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
"The hand that made us divine."
The stars in their courses fight against
atheism, and all nature refuses to give it
credit. Human reason rejects it, and the
heart of mankind turns away from it with
a feeling akin to loathing.
And its consequences are as pernicious
as its conclusions fallacious. Its principles
that poison the mind do also pollute the
soul and pervert the lives of men.
An atheist there may be here and there
who, moved by the moral momentum de-
rived from a pious ancestry back of him,
or drawn by the influence from religious
society around him, may maintain an out-
ward morality and a commendable decency
of conduct; but, the life which he thus lives
is higher than the line of his tenets, and his
tenets constantly tend to drag his life to
the low plane of his infidelity.
The spread of atheism is coincident
with the march of anarchy. Irreligion
among any people means, in so far as it
prevails, insecurity for life, liberty, and
To this effect James Russell Lowell
spoke years ago with great truth and force
The worst kind of religion is no religion at all. Those who
are living in ease and luxury and indulging themselves in the
amusement of going without religion may be thankful that they
lived in lands where the gospel they neglect has tamed the
beastliness and ferocity of men, who, but for Christianity, might
long ago have eaten their carcasses like the South Sea Islanders,
or cut off their heads and tanned their hides like the monsters
of the French Revolution. When the microscopic search of
skepticism, which has hunted the heavens and sounded the
seas to disprove the existence of a Creator, has turned its atten-
tion to human society and has found a place on this planet, ten
miles square, where a decent man can live in decency, comfort,
and security, supporting and educating his children, unspoiled
and unpolluted; a place where age is reverenced, infancy pro-
tected, manhood respected, womanhood honored, and human
life held in due regard, when skepticism can find such a place on
this globe, where the gospel of Christ has not cleared the way
and laid the foundations and made decency and security pos-
sible, it will then be in order for the skeptical literati to move
thither and there ventilate their false theories.
Atheism is to be condemned, further, for
the hopelessness which it engenders and
the despair which it begets. To be with-
out God is to be without hope in the world ;
and pessimism is the perpetual secretion
which exudes from the atheistic system.
If atheism were universal, it would destroy
the buoyancy of courage among men and
arrest all the material and moral progress
Can that be true which thus demoralizes
the lives and depresses the souls of men?
Can truth work so perniciously? Can a
good tree yield such foul fruit?
If atheism is judged by its fruits, it
must be condemned as a noxious plant
bearing a baneful product.
Where in a system which denies the
existence of a personal God is to be found
motives for heroic self-sacrifice to promote
the welfare of mankind? Wherein is
there the slightest inspiration for benevo-
lence or the feeblest support for virtue?
What force inheres in it to promote human
happiness or to soothe human sorrow?
What balm does it offer for the woes that
fill the world ?
What has it done to advance knowledge,
elevate culture, or further the enlighten-
ment of the human race?
Where are the educational institutions
it has established or the hospitals it has
erected? What wounded bodies has it
healed, or what broken hearts has it
If atheism should disappear utterly
from among men, the world would not be
less holy or less happy; but mankind
would be far more pure and peaceful and
But wnat would follow the death of all
religion? Its departure would be the
greatest calamity that could befall the
human race. All earth's music would be
hushed in the saddest silence and all its
piety would wither and perish. All laws
would fail and all order would cease. Civil
government, bereft of its strongest sup-
port, would totter and fall. Science would
expire in darkness. Life would be divested
of its holiness, beauty, and hope. Death,
dreadful death, would be the end of all —
and end in rayless gloom!